Around one in every 50 people aged 40-69 years in England, Scotland and Wales has been weighed, measured and quizzed about their health and lifestyles to help try and solve the health problems of the 21st century.
Half a million people have joined UK Biobank, which includes the most detailed large-scale collection of data ever undertaken on blood pressure, lung function and grip strength, height, weight and body mass, arterial stiffness, vision, hearing, family history of common diseases, bone density, diet and fitness.
Participants have donated samples of blood, urine and saliva for long-term storage and analysis (including genetic) and have agreed to have their health followed for the next 30 years and beyond.
The information collected will provide key insights as to why some people develop certain diseases and others do not. This will help scientists to better understand the causes and prevention of a wide range of painful, life-threatening and debilitating illnesses of mid to later life. This includes cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, depression, osteoporosis, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and lung and kidney disorders.
The project has generated a wide amount of coverage in the UK media, including by the BBC. Further coverage from the BBC can be accessed here.
Recruitment into UK Biobank began in Manchester in 2006. Altogether, 22 assessment centres where people joined the project were opened.
UK Biobank is supported by the NHS. Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department of Health, said: “Health research is one of the founding principles of the NHS; it is critical for improved quality of life and more effective healthcare delivery. I thank the 500,000 people who volunteered for UK Biobank. Through UK Biobank we are building on a research tradition to meet the needs of our time and for the sake of future generations.”
UK Biobank is funded by the Wellcome Trust charity, Medical Research Council, Department of Health, Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly Government, Northwest Regional Development Agency and the British Heart Foundation.
Only information that does not identify participants will be provided to scientists working on health-related research for the public good. An independent UK Biobank Ethics & Governance Council has independent oversight of the project on behalf of participants and the general public.